February 19, 2020

Van Hollen, Senators Introduce Legislation to Counteract Trump Exit from Iran Deal

Iran Diplomacy Act calls for a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have introduced S.3314, the Iran Diplomacy Actwhich calls upon the United States and Iran to return to no less than their commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. On January 14, 2020, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom triggered the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism in an attempt to address Iran’s breaches of the agreement, all of which followed the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the deal on May 8, 2018.

Prior to that point, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.S. intelligence community verified that Iran had lived up to its end of the agreement – which extended the “breakout time” for an Iranian nuclear bomb from a span of weeks to over one year.

Iran’s provocative behavior has intensified since the U.S. exit from the deal and re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions, increasing the risk of armed conflict. Examples include Iran’s shoot-down of a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on June 19, 2019, in addition to reversible but concerning rollbacks of its nuclear-related commitments.

“Since President Trump took office he has drastically elevated tensions with Iran and brought us to the brink of war. President Trump’s so-called campaign of ‘maximum pressure,’ has resulted only in maximum failure,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation establishes a clear and cohesive plan to address relations with Iran, deescalate tensions in the region, and bring all sides back into compliance with the agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In light of President Trump’s abandonment of U.S. global leadership on this issue, the Congress must act.”

“President Trump’s Iran policy is a prime example of how he has created new nuclear crises where none existed or where they had successfully been tamed through diplomacy,” said Senator Markey. “If President Trump is serious about his declaration that ‘Iran will never have a nuclear weapon,’ he should recommit to the agreement which verifiably shut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb and abandon his failed Iran strategy that has brought us to the brink of war, not once but twice.”

“Under the Iran nuclear agreement, we had an effective nuclear deal that restricted its capability to develop nuclear weapons,” said Senator Feinstein. “That agreement was our best chance for peace after decades of hostilities, but President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement increases tensions and has the potential to increase nuclear proliferation. It’s my hope the United States will eventually return to the deal. The policy outlined in this bill would set us on a path to do so and I’m proud to cosponsor it.”

“While the JCPOA nuclear agreement was far from perfect, it was successful in halting Iran’s dangerous development of nuclear weapons—but now that Donald Trump has unilaterally backed out of the agreement, Iran is threatening to restart the very same nuclear weapons development the agreement was successfully preventing,” said Senator Duckworth.“Instead of launching more missile strikes with dubious legal justification and bringing both our countries to the brink of war, the United States should be doing everything we can to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions through diplomatic efforts that have already proven effective, which is why I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce the Iran Diplomacy Act.”

“The Iran nuclear agreement was an enormously important achievement. The Obama administration worked with our international partners to put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program and create the opportunity for further diplomacy with Iran,” said Senator Sanders. “Trump’s reckless withdrawal from the agreement, which was done against the advice of his own top security officials, undermined American credibility and contributed to the dangerous escalation between our countries that we are witnessing. I am pleased to cosponsor this bill to send a clear message: we strongly believe that the United States should rejoin that agreement and work with our allies—not against them as Trump is doing—to address a broader set of issues in the region.”

“The United States should work with its allies and partners to peacefully prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but instead the President has unilaterally withdrawn from a successful nuclear deal, re-imposed sweeping sanctions that have harmed the Iranian people, and risked starting a war with Iran,” said Senator Warren. “I'm glad to cosponsor this bill that puts diplomacy first and rejects another endless war in the Middle East.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

“VoteVets worked hand-in-hand with President Obama and Congressional leaders to pass the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and pursue a path of diplomacy and denuclearization with Iran – a path that was keeping Americans safe…Senator Markey’s "Iran Diplomacy Act of 2020” would restore sanity and stability to our efforts to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions responsibility, and we encourage Senators of both parties to join him in this effort,” said Will Goodwin, Army Veteran and Director of Government Relations, VoteVets. 

“The Iran nuclear agreement was an historic achievement for US national security and the security of our allies,” said Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund The US violation of the agreement initiated the current crisis, revived the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran and brought America and Iran to the brink of war. Returning to the accord and resuming diplomatic negotiations with Iran is essential to preventing a nuclear Iran and preventing a disastrous new war in the Middle East. We applaud the leadership of these Senators and encourage their colleagues to pass the Iran Diplomacy Act as quickly as possible.”

“The Council for a Livable World wholeheartedly supports the Iran Diplomacy Act of 2020,” said former Congressman John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World.

“The best way to ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapons capability and prevent a dangerous new war in the Middle East is to get both sides to reengage in a diplomatic process leading to verifiable commitments as defined in the Act. We believe that this legislation is crucial to the national security interests of the United States and its allies, and hope that it will be taken up by this Congress.”

“The JCPOA was a landmark nuclear agreement, and it successfully barred Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon until President Trump tore up the agreement,” said Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America. “But the good news is that we can still find our way back from the brink. And the solution isn't to send more American troops to the Middle East – the solution is diplomacy. This legislation recognizes what our allies are shouting at the top of their lungs, but the administration fails to understand: best way to effectively address our nuclear concerns with Iran is by ensuring all sides are complying with the JCPOA.”

The administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, followed by inhumane ‘maximum pressure sanctions,’ have created instability in the Middle East, put us on a war footing with Iran, and caused untold human suffering for Iranian people, who now don’t have access to many critical life-saving medicines,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy, FCNL. “This approach has been a maximum failure and has done little to advance peace, national security, and human rights. The American people want a restrained foreign policy and the onus is on Congress to find a pathway for peace and diplomacy, which is exactly what Senator Markey’s bill attempts to do.”

“J Street welcomes the introduction of the Iran Diplomacy Act, a bill that seeks to return all parties to compliance with the JCPOA in order to deescalate the current risk of a catastrophic war and again block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon,” said Dylan Williams, Vice President of Government Affairs, J Street.  “This bill would provide a critical off ramp to the current escalatory cycle and should be taken up urgently by the senate.”

"Once again Senator Markey shows his decades long leadership of protecting Americans from nuclear weapons by introducing important legislation that would get the U.S. back into the successful international Iran agreement, choose diplomacy over a disastrous war and ensure respect for human rights,” commented Paul Kawika Martin the Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action.

Specifically, the Iran Diplomacy Act calls for:

  • The United States should support efforts to return all sides to not less than full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA and refrain from threatening U.S. allies with economic penalties, as well as negotiate an interim agreement that provides Iran with tailored, temporary economic relief in exchange for verifiable measures by Iran that reverse its violations of the JPCOA.
  • The United States and the other P5+1 parties should seek out negotiations with Iran, prior to 2023, towards a new agreement that closes off all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon.
  • The United States and its international partners should seek to address other aspects of Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region and work to bring Iran back to compliance with its human rights obligations.
  • The United States should not seek to “snap back” United Nations Security Council Sanctions as that right should be reserved for current parties to the JCPOA.
  • The United States should issue waivers for cooperative projects specified in the JCPOA, all of which make it more difficult for Iran to reconstitute activities that pose a proliferation risk.
  • The United States should create an environment in which financial institutions and entities can make practical use of existing exemptions and mechanisms “allowing for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran,” as well as other humanitarian trade.